Test Drives

Porsche 911 Carrera S (992) 2019 review: Silver Spirit


  • Mar 9, 2019

Porsche’s eighth-incarnation of the legend has big shoes to fill, and the new 911 (codenamed 992), manages to fill the legacy fittingly

 

VALENCIA, SPAIN

In Porsche circles, you’d best be referring to the latest heir to bear the 911 name as the 992, because otherwise no one would know which of the iconic model’s eight iterations you’re talking about.

With such a ‘big’ name comes equally big shoes to fill, and it’s almost a love-hate relationship between Porsche and its fans, as the latter loves to watch the brand slip-up, because in the eyes of the long-time Porschephile, no new 911 can ever be as good as an old’un, particularly if it’s an air-cooled model.

It’s remarkable how old generations of the 911 continue to stir such strong emotions among collectors, as it’s one of the few models around today where its petrolhead fans don’t see new as being necessarily ‘better’.

With that in mind, Porsche is always careful to balance evolution with nostalgia, because without the past, the present could not be what it has become. Of course, it could be argued that for every grinchy petrolhead (You are a unique, delicate snowflake DK! – Ed.) like us who appreciates the old, there are ten more that clamour after the new, which is a situation closer to reality in light of how sales figures for the 911 have exploded.

The 911 may have come from extremely specialised roots – it was a rear-engined, rear-drive sports car that could take you (and the family) to the race-track and back.

Its lineage can be traced all the way back to the 356 of the 1940s (right up to the 1960s), which means the genus/genius of the 911 is well over 50 years old, and when you’ve been specialising in something for such a long time, you’re unlikely to get things wrong.

From the 1963 original to this 2019 eight generation, the silhouette remains immediately recognisable, and the engine is still in the same place – the rear of the car.

However, fans of the Carrera model’s previously lithe, narrow-hipped shape may need to get used to its lush new curves as it gets the wider-body that used to be reserved for the Carrera 4 all-wheel-drive models. The generation also sees the use of staggered tyres, not just in terms of width, but also in diameter size, which means the car should enjoy a crisp, incisive turn-in, yet have ample reserves of grip in the rear.

Naturally, the new Carrera S (which we’ll dub, unofficially, ‘C2S’ for short) has been tuned for more efficiency even though its engine performance enjoys a decent hike.

Par for the course for any car these days, but it’s how much of the good stuff Porsche has managed to retain that lets the 911 keep its personality, and that’s one of the things that makes a 911 stand out from the crowd, even today.

In a bid to tie the new 992’s looks back to the evocative air-cooled era (or perhaps not to alienate fans of its earlier cars), the new model boasts aesthetic elements from the ‘G’ model 911 of the 1970s-80s (incidentally the longest-running 911 model ever), which include a forward extended bonnet and accompanying recess in front of the windscreen – a hallmark of the air-cooled 911s.

The sense of power is further accentuated by the view of the wide-body from behind (it’s not quite the ‘TL’ – or Turbo Look – that was so popular during the G model era under the ‘Special Wishes’ customisation programme), because the equivalent 99x era Turbo/Turbo S models have grown so much wider), especially with the continuous LED strip that spans the entire width of the tail-lights.

Like some new cars (the Jaguar I-Pace for example) the door handles pop-out when you need to open the doors, but a bigger change is how one no longer needs to insert a key to start the car as the 992 moves towards full keyless operation – what’s also cool is how Porsche has kept the turning motion on the starter ‘key’ tab to crank the car, even if a key is no longer mechanically required.

Like the 991.2 that marked the start of Porsche’s use of the biturbo 3.0-litre flat six for the Carrera models, the 992 C2S features vertical air-intake louvres. However, in the 992, a third brake-light is stylishly integrated into the central louvres, but because the variable rear-wing can obscure this when deployed, a brake light has also been incorporated into the spoiler. On the rear-drive Carrera models, the louvres are black, but boast chrome elements for the all-wheel-drive models.

The juxtaposition of new and old continues in the cabin, with a minimalist, retro-inspired dashboard architecture amidst the sea of digital instruments and a lush 10.9-inch touchscreen display, as well as the Braun shaver-like appendage that serves as gear selector. You can’t shift gears using the ‘lever’ now, with all up/down-shifts effected using the steering wheel gear paddles.

On the same plane as the steering (and hence within easy reach) sits five classically-designed toggle ‘hard’ switches for the car’s immediate dynamic functions, and while the familiar five-dial format is retained under the instrument cowl, only the centre rev counter is an analogue dial, the remaining four are free-form digital, with the right-side items switchable to the GPS display and various other info.

If you spec the C2S with the optional Sport Chrono package (as our test-cars were), you get a rotary switch on the steering wheel (like the 991.2 and 718 models) to toggle between the various Drive modes, including Sport Plus, which unlocks Launch Control to achieve its blistering 0-100km/h sprint time of 3.5-seconds.

A new addition to the existing drive modes is ‘Wet’, which can be manually engaged in wet conditions, but also pre-primed by the system when the sensors detect you’re driving in such conditions.


Basically, it’s for the benefit of drivers who don’t exercise judicious use of the throttle, either because they don’t know enough, or they don’t care, because the system inhibits access to the full brunt of the engine’s might when engaged, thus forestalling any incursions into the scenery.

Of course, it is merely a nanny aid that cuts drive, not a fail-safe, and although we tried hard to get it to slip-up on a wet handling course, it admirably kept our shenanigans in check, even if the instructors were less than enthused by our attempts.

With such nannies, you’d expect the drive to be a similarly sanitised experience, except it isn’t. For some reason, Porsche succeeds in ensuring every generation of its iconic 911 remains a driver’s car, and the 992 is no exception.

It’s not enough for the motoring experience to merely be ‘fast’, because it has to deliver the ‘feels’ as well, and that sort of emotional attachment transcends mere absolutes like ‘how fast?’

As a matter of ‘course’, the 992 C2S was clocked around the Nordschleife in 7:25, five seconds faster than its predecessor.

Sure, we’ve come a long way from worrying about rotating the engine’s mass in the rear to help turn-in, and in this case, the 992’s narrow front tyres and rear-axle steer come into their own.

With so many cars these days tuned to supplant the driver during hard driving, we’re thankful the 992 continues to retain a natural enough feel despite the electronic driving aids, with great grip from the 305 rears; moreover, you’re always aware of the grip thresholds through seat-of-pants feel and steering wheel, while the brake pedal allows for precise modulation and application of the bigger brakes, thanks in part also to the lightened carbonfibre composite pedal construction.

True to their legacy, the Carreras are intended to offer their owners an all-rounded driving experience, so even if you occasionally tackle the winding roads or the circuit on the weekends, you’re also assured of comfortable commutes on work-days, as opposed to one of the brand’s harder-edged GT3 or RS models.

It’ll trundle sedately between home and office, but the moment you unleash its Mr. Hyde personality, it’s gogogo-time as you are immediately engaged by its fluidly agile chassis, responsive engine and wonderfully feelsome steering, as it channels the spirit of its predecessors.

 

Porsche 911 Carrera S

Engine 2,981cc, flat-6, twin-turbo

Power 450hp at 6500rpm

Torque 530Nm at 2300-5000rpm

Gearbox 8-speed dual-clutch

Top Speed 308km/h

0-100km/h 3.5 seconds (with Sport Plus)

Fuel efficiency 8.9L/100km

CO2 205g/km

Price S$546,588 w/o COE

Agent Stuttgart Auto

Available Now

about the author

David Khoo
David Khoo is the editor of CarBuyer's sister magazine, Top Gear Singapore. If it's rare, exotic, or smells like ham, he's probably touched it, driven it, or sniffed it inappropriately.
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